Enhancing stress resilience: optimizing sleep and recovery through nervous system balance and adaptogens

In today's high-pressure business climate, the well-being of top-tier professionals hinges on effective stress management and recovery optimization. Adequate, high-quality sleep promotes cognitive function, memory consolidation and problem-solving abilities, allowing individuals to approach their professional tasks with clarity and focus.

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The synergistic relationship between restful sleep, effective recovery and a regulated nervous system is instrumental in bolstering performance and ensuring sustained productivity in both personal and professional endeavours.

The importance of the vagus nerve

The vagus nerve is integral to the parasympathetic nervous system and restoration. Techniques such as slow, deep breathing can stimulate this nerve, ushering in a state of tranquility and diminishing stress reactions. By consciously controlling the breath, one can shift from a state of heightened stress to relaxation.

Practices such as the 4-7-8 technique (inhale for four seconds, hold for seven, exhale for eight) are simple, yet effective in activating the parasympathetic nervous system.

Heart rate variability (HRV) as a recovery indicator

HRV is a precise metric for autonomic nervous system health and stress resilience. Higher HRV signifies a more responsive nervous system, well-equipped to manage stress. Monitoring HRV can provide a picture of adaptability and nervous system functionality in the body.

The critical role of sleep for peak performers

For those at the forefront of their fields, sleep is the ultimate health moderator and a key component of high performance. It’s a period of intense neurological maintenance. where memories are solidified, tissues are repaired, and growth and appetite-regulating hormones are released.

The brain’s glymphatic system also engages in crucial detoxification during sleep, vital for preserving cognitive function and mental acuity. It's important to recognize that sustained high performance requires regular periods of rest and recovery to prevent burnout and maintain mental clarity. 

Until recently, many high achievers overlooked the significance of prioritizing sleep and relaxation, often overworking themselves. Arianna Huffington, an accomplished author, businesswoman and co-founder of The Huffington Post, has strongly emphasized the risks of burnout and the need to step away from the relentless demands of technology in today’s world.

In her book, "The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at A Time", she underscores how getting enough sleep has been a transformative and vital factor in her ongoing business success.

The toll of chronic stress on the nervous system

In a world of unending deadlines and constant digital connection, persistent stress can be a chronic concern, triggering hormonal responses that keep the sympathetic nervous system on high alert. This constant state of “fight or flight” can eventually take a significant toll, impairing cognition, weakening immune function and increasing cardiovascular risk.

Prominent neuroscientist and author of the bestselling book,Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams”, Matthew Walker, PhD has conducted extensive research centred on the role of sleep in memory and emotional processing, the effects of sleep on mental and physical health, and the impact of sleep deprivation.

His studies have significantly contributed to the understanding of how sleep affects the human brain, including how a lack of sleep can affect learning, memory, emotional regulation and various health conditions. By strategically allocating time for proper sleep, rest and recovery, individuals can replenish their energy reserves, enhance focus and improve their ability to handle workload demands effectively. Finding harmony between workload and recovery is not a sign of weakness but a wise investment in sustainable performance and personal fulfillment.

Effective sleep strategies for busy schedules

For those juggling demanding schedules and packed agendas, accessing quality sleep should be high on their list of priorities:

Ensure sufficient sleep: Strive for between seven and nine hours of quality sleep and go to bed early. The best quality sleep usually happens between the hours of 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. 

Optimize your environment: Keep your bedroom free from electronics and block out as much light as possible. Turn the thermostat to between 15-19 C. A cooler ambient temperature helps promote deep sleep.

Create a pre-sleep ritual: Establish a consistent routine that preps your body for rest, involving relaxing activities like reading or meditation, and avoiding stimulating screen time before bed.

Manage caffeine and alcohol: Limit caffeine later in the day and alcohol near bedtime to avoid sleep disruptions.

Engage with daylight: Expose yourself to natural light to help maintain your circadian rhythm, especially at sunrise and sunset, utilizing light therapy if needed. Limit artificial light in the hours leading up to bedtime.

Practice relaxation techniques: Incorporate methods like deep breathing or guided imagery to calm the mind before sleep.

Use sleep tracking: Use devices to monitor sleep efficiency and patterns to fine-tune your rest.

Practice yoga nidra, or non-sleep deep rest (NSDR): This practice allows your brain to get into a state very similar to REM sleep and can be used to combat stress, fatigue and lack of concentration, or to access sleep.

Maintain regular exercise: Include moderate exercise in your daily routine, but not right before sleep.

Blood sugar regulation: Eating a moderate amount of quality protein and fat closer to bedtime can prevent a drop in blood sugar that may disrupt sleep.

Leverage mouth taping: Mouth taping promotes nasal breathing during sleep, which can increase oxygen intake, reduce snoring and lead to deeper sleep. 

Sleep supplements

When lifestyle elements are well-managed, but sleep remains elusive, certain supplements can help. Experiment with these supplements to find what works best for you. Dr. Andrew Huberman, renowned host of the popular “Huberman Podcast, offers the following recommendations on supplements that can effectively enhance the quality and duration of sleep. 

For difficulty falling asleep, try:

  • Magnesium threonate or glycinate: 145 mg, 30-60 minutes before sleep.
  • Apigenin: 50 mg daily, 30-60 minutes before sleep.
  • Theanine at a dosage range of 100-400 mg, 30-60 minutes before sleep.

For difficulty staying asleep, consider:

  • Myoinositol: 900 mg to 4 g, one hour before bed. 
  • Glycine: 2-3 g before bed. 
  • GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid): 100 mg of GABA, one hour before sleep.

The role of adaptogens in stress and sleep management

Adaptogens are natural substances derived from plants that enhance the body's resilience to stress. Incorporating adaptogens into a comprehensive stress and sleep management routine can enhance well-being and performance. They work by regulating the body's stress response system, which includes the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and the sympathetic-adrenal-medullary (SAM) system. These systems impact the release of the stress hormone cortisol, which plays a crucial role in the body's physiological and psychological response to stress.

Notable adaptogens include Ashwagandha, Rhodiola Rosea and Holy Basil (Tulsi). Taking two doses of 250-300 mg of Ashwagandha — one in the afternoon and another closer to bedtime —aids in cortisol modulation and overall stress management. It promotes a calm and relaxed state, facilitating restful sleep and improving fatigue resistance, benefiting those with difficulty staying asleep.

Recognizing the integral role of sleep and recovery in personal and professional success is not just a matter of individual well-being; it has far-reaching implications for organizational success as well. By fostering a mindset that values rest as a component of productivity, businesses can create an environment that supports the overall health and happiness of their employees. This, in turn, leads to increased engagement, improved cognitive abilities and enhanced performance in the workforce. 


This article was written by Dr. Nathalie Beauchamp. Opinions do not necessarily reflect the views of IG Wealth Management. 

The information provided is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or health concerns.


Andrew Huberman: Sleep toolkit: Tools for optimizing sleep and sleep-wake timing.

Arianna Huffington: The Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life, One Night at a Time.

Matthew Walker: Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams.

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